Friday, 17 September 2010
Daran Little was the Coronation Street archivist for many years and he also wrote a half dozen books about the Street and it's history, it's characters and the show's history in general. He was also a Corrie scriptwriter for awhile and turned out some wonderful stuff. He loves the show and knows it probably better than almost anyone barring Tony Warren, i suppose. He's written a very special drama about how Coronation Street came to be on television back in 1960 and it's called The Road to Coronation Street.
It aired on BBC4 last night. Why ITV didn't take it and run with it, I don't know. They missed the boat on that one but BBC sure did a bang up job with the production and casting. Daran's script was amazing and just so right, so perfect! It told the story of how Tony Warren came to write it and the fight he and Harry Elton gave ITV's owners to get it on the air on December 9, 1960. They showed the auditions for some of the major characters, too.
When the casting was announced months ago, the most controversial part went to Jessie Wallace who would play legendary Pat Phoenix, very big stilettos to fill. Everyone was dubious. How could "Kat Slater", the character from Eastenders that she played, be Elsie Tanner? It must be hard to be an actor who gets so well known for a particular character. How do you shake that off? It's not always easy and not always possible. Very possibly why we haven't really seen Johnny Briggs (Mike Baldwin) in much since he left Corrie.
Jessie was very well known for gobby chav, Kat, a cockney Eastender. How could she possibly embody the spirit of Northern actress Elsie Tanner? But...over the last few weeks since the media has been reviewing the dvd before it aired, word has been leaking out. Whispers of "Awesome" and "eerie" and "spot on" have been floating about from reviewers (Mirror's review here and one from the Guardian here). Even writer Ian Wylie thought it was great! Could she really be that good? She herself knew there would be a lot of attention on her in particular, more than all the other characters/actors and she worked hard to get it right.
And she did get it right, I'm relieved to say. I'm always a bit skeptical about reviewers but in this they all agree and they're right. Jessie Wallace really did bring Pat Pheonix back to life. She really did bring the essence of the actress back to the screen and was entirely believable. She didn't overegg the pudding and put on too strong an accent. After all, Pat herself was an actor, she wouldn't have had as strong an accent as Elsie, her character, often did. She played it with a light but firm hand and that's why it worked. She didn't go over the top with flash and attitude, she gave it just enough so that it was definably Pat but not a stereotype of her. And as i read in one of the comments here, after all the insistence by Tony Warren that they only use Northern actors, it is rather ironic that it was a London actor that really brought Pat Phoenix back to life!
The other casting was really good, too. Probably the most inspired was casting William Roache's son, James, to play his own father. William, of course, has been playing Ken Barlow for 50 years. James looks very much like his father, too, and since he knows the man so well, and could talk to him at length about what it was like, he had a pretty good chance of getting it nailed and I think he did very well. He actually blogged about his experience on the BBC tv site and said he was quite nervous he might not get it right but he needn't fear. Celia Imrie as Doris Speed was perfect as was Lynda Baron as Ena Sharples, who was cast at the last minute.
David Dawson plays the central character, the pivotal Tony Warren who was a young writer who used to be a child actor. His acting career seems to be at an end but his writing career could just take off. He's certainly confident, cheeky, and even a bit cocky and has the determination to succeed. He's bored writing run of the mill scripts and persuades producer Harry Elton (Canadian content!) to let him write a script about something he knows about, the North, Manchester, and strong women. Tony Warren was openly gay which wasn't something you saw much 50 years ago and Dawson played it with just the right touch so it was obvious but not "in your face obvious". He was perfect and apparently the real Tony approved! I think he deserves more than one award for this performance.
One of my favourite scenes was during Pat Phoenix's audition when she started with the scene where she accuses her son of stealing money from her purse. Tony took Dennis Tanner's lines and the chemistry between the two blossomed and it was clear that Tony did have the acting chops still in him. The immersed themselves in the lines and it was no wonder she passed the audition with flying colours!
The whole cast was so well performed and the look and feel of it was maybe a bit glossier than the real 1960 might have been but it certainly felt the part. They found some great locations and even used the Victoria Street part of the ITV outdoor set in one night shot of "Tony" and "Elsie" dancing on the cobbles. You could just see the bright blue of the kebab shop on one side. The clothes, hair and makeup were also very good.
A few really nice touches: During the show, as they cast another character, someone would pin the publicity head shot up on a bulletin board. You could see all of the cast photos up there by the time the show actually went out live. At the very end, the camara pulled back from Tony Warren who was watching the show in his office to the bulletin board/wall and the photos were now of the real original actors, not the ones from this production. When you could hear the first episode on televisions, or through the production booth, though you didn't see it, it was actually the original soundtrack and actors from the 1960 broadcast, not the ones from this production. And for the end credits, they showed photos of the real actors with the name and name of actor who played them for this production.
I'm still basking in the afterglow. I'm definitely going to be watching it again and again. Unfortunately, living outside the U.K. i have to resort to downloading since i can't even access the BBC iPlayer easily. I don't know if the show will be shown elsewhere but i hope for all the Corrie fans outside the U.K. that it does. I also hope the BBC has the sense to release it on DVD.
Keeping a list of other reviews when i see them...
End of Show (about David Dawson)
A Post Modernist view of The Road with links to other reviews in this context
Adding this... Road to Coronation Street is available on DVD. In Canada, you can get it online at Amazon or Chapters Indigo. I'm pretty sure you can get it in retail stores as well, though I haven't actually gone looking.
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
Dev is being officious and sanctimonious as always. He agreed to have Claire nanny the kids but doesn't like it when she looks after other kids, too, in his house. He expects her to do all the housework. He doesn't understand he's a prize wally, does he? At the end of the month he's castigating Claire's reputation after his little Aadi was hurt and it certainly wasn't her fault! It wouldn't even have mattered if she'd been there instead of Sophie and Sian, the little boys were tumbling and Aadi got hurt. Would have happened anyway!
Underworld was rebuilt lickety split in record time. Owen is the new builder on the street and really, Bill is getting a bit past it and should be enjoying his retirement. Rita said Owen reminds her of Len Fairclough and he does a bit. Rough and ready but not a bad sort, really. He's bought the builder's yard too. I really think it's about time Bill retired anyway and it seems to mean that Owen is here to stay for awhile. He's flirting and dating Eileen but his eye is really on Liz and i think he's got a bit of that edgy air about him, like Jim had. This might actually be the way that Liz can finally get over Jim because you know, she never really has, has she?
I do feel sorry for Audrey. Yes, she was a foolish woman trusting Slick Sam but she didn't have any reason not to trust him. Well aside from the fact that he was a male escort! Did she really expect him to be faithful to her? I don't know what he did with all the money he should have made, even just escorting should have been good business and add on to that scamming the occasional rich widow? Humiliating as it was, Audrey was right, better find out now than be stuck in a foreign country.
I'm a bit surprised that Lewis didn't take Audrey's 100 grand in the end though she still found out the hard truth the hard way. At least she can pay back the loan against the house but she's going to have a few wounds to lick. I really enjoyed this storyline, and it's always so great to have the senior members of the cast in love stories even if they do sometimes end badly! It's too bad the actor that plays Ted has been unavailable because Ted would have seen right through Lewis and been Audrey's voice of reason!
And there he was using even more foolish Deirdre to scam the betting shop! That was quite funny really. Poor old Diddery! I think she and Ken are just as bad as each other, really. Both longing for excitement but neither quite brave enough to really take the bull by the horns and go get it. The Barlows have a few hart truths to face too. Ken thinks it's a different situation than his with Martha but really, it's not. He was ready to run off and so was Deirdre if the opportunity came up, both with someone that made them feel special and exciting.
And i really like that they've shown Leanne still finding that hurt spot leftover from when she was married to Nick. It doesn't mean she still loves him because i'm sure she doesn't but you just don't always get over that pain. It hides and then rears it's ugly head when you least expect it. I really hope they keep Peter and Leanne together though i do expect it will be a bumpy ride. Leanne knows the truth and Fiz is going to figure it out too and it's going to come out sooner than later. Poor obsessed Natasha is going to get very hurt and I have a feeling the traditional woman scorned is going to lash out and lash out big.
Steve and Becky got turned down for adoption, not because they'd be crap parents but because they haven't been in a stable relationship long enough and it was too soon after her miscarraiges. Becky of course, is going to blame herself no matter what Steve or anyone else says and threatening the panel on the way out probably didn't help matters, but it turned out to be her half sister that castigated her reputation to the Social that did the most damage, someone she hasn't seen in years. There has been no mention whatsoever of a sister until now but then Becky didn't tell the panel about her either. They found her and it turned out badly.
I was skeptical of yet another mardy baby sister, having been burned with the Violet-Lauren disaster but the actress playing Kylie, Paula Lane, is really good so it seems the character might not be quite so annoying as Lauren was. Time will tell and I reckon her little boy, Max, is going to end up under Steve and Becky's care at some point.
And we end with the wedding of the year, nearly scuppered by Mad Mary who threw herself into the wedding planning, in lieu of her own dashed hopes and dreams. She was so pushy and so overwhelming that even Hayley managed to stand up to her and reject her. Hayley did try, though, she invited Mary to the hen night but her heart wasn't in it and Mary could tell. (Wasn't the hen night fab??) Mary took her revenge by uncoupling the train car but the efforts of Fiz and Becky got Hayley to the venue only a little late and the Croppers are Croppers for real now!